Join Date: Mar 2006
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I don't have a huge amount of night experience but its been racing so I could observe what was going on on a lot of boats. What I saw struck me as some messed up stuff. Boats sailing the anchor light on to illuminate the windex, boats with deck lights on constantly, boats with bajillion candlepower flashlights swinging all over the place including the eyes of helmsmen on nearby boats and a lot more boats using small flashlights to occasionally check the sails and/or windex.
The thing that helped most on the boat I crewed on was the skippers knowledge of the boat. When my stint on the helm rolled around, he just told me at this point of sail, in these winds if the speed goes over x.x you need to head up, if it goes under y.y you need to foot off. I was able to sail a 4 hour shift with only minimal attention to the sails simply watching the boat speed through the water and heading or footing as needed. Of course we had fairly steady state winds and were close hauled, so that helped, but having knowledge of what speed you should see on a given point of sail and wind condition will really pay off at night.
From the experience I've gained from watching boats around me at night, I think occasional use of a small narrow beam flashlight is the way to go for checking the sails. Even that is going to mess up night vision, but you really don't need a 12,0000 candlepower Q-beam to see what the tell-tails are doing.
s/v Palmetto Moon
1991 Catalina 36
Last edited by PalmettoSailor; 12-19-2010 at 08:20 AM.